Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Australian outback. The pull toward and against dangerous adventure. Janet Clare talks about her extraordinary debut TIME IS THE LONGEST DISTANCE, obsessions, and her appearance at MY local Little City Books on Feb. 6th--and you all have to come!

I love debuts. Just addicted to them. Janet Clare's TIME IS THE LONGEST DISTANCE is set against the remote Australian outback and features a heroine as startling as the terrain. I called her novel a "phenomenally moving experience." And I'm not the only one knocked out. Look at this:

 “When Lilly, rocked by a family secret, agrees to trek through the Australian outback with her newly-discovered father, brother, and niece, the terrain is as remote and unfamiliar as her traveling companions. There in the crowded vehicle, the torment of past relationships pursues her—wanting adventure while wanting safety, feeling cramped and yet never close enough. A poignant and witty story of survival, trust, and awakening.” Susan Henderson, author of The Flicker of Old Dreams

“In deft, clear prose that reminds of both Cheryl Strayed and Michael Ondaatje, Janet Clare’s debut explores—in riveting, unflinching detail—a woman’s search for connection and meaning. In Lilly’s journey, with unfamiliar family in unfamiliar territory, we have a protagonist wanting in the ways we are all wanting: to find that thing that will make us complete. There are depths in these characters and I loved every word.” Christian Kiefer, author of The Animals 

"An impressive debut. A taut, compelling adventure, exploring little-known landscapes and the depth and breadth of a woman's yearning." David Francis, author of Stray Dog Winter 

I so loved the book that I contacted Janet, and we became long-lost friends and I'm going to be interviewing her at LITTLE CITY BOOKS in Hoboken, NJ on Feb. 6 at 7:00. Come because we are going to be laughing and talking and because her book is amazing.

Thank you, thank you, Janet Clare 

What was it haunting you that got you to write the book?
 Years ago, I heard about a man who, having spent most of his life in the United States, returned home to Australia for his father’s funeral only to find he had a whole other family living on the other side of the country. It started me thinking about that vast land, and all the spaces where we hide ourselves. How separate we can be from people--often family and those we love—who we see every day. And, too, the longing for those lost from our lives. I’ve always said I hate losing anyone still above ground.

What kind of writer are you? Do you make maps, or just follow that pesky muse?
 I make notes. Scraps of paper, post-its. Some that have nothing to do with what I’m writing, but nevertheless may work their way in. Never an outline. I admire people who do it, but I can’t. I have an idea, a point of view, and a place, which is very important to me, and obvious in Time Is the Longest Distance. My protagonist might come from someone I see, which was the beginning for my second novel. I’m always curious about interesting strangers, what their story might be. So, I try to listen, (I confess to being a terrible eavesdropper, though I also ask questions if it’s appropriate), then I just make it up. Start and see where it goes, which is often never where I would have thought at the outset.

What surprised you in writing this book?
The way these people come up against what I consider the big questions we all face in our lives. Love and loss. Thoughts of morality and mortality, and, how capable we might be of actions that surprise and terrify us. How differently we might act if we find ourselves out in some far-reaching emptiness, that sense of being gone from our lives. And, of course, the human imperfections from which we all suffer.

You mention the thrill of transgression. Could you talk about that please?
I think many of us are drawn to a certain danger, especially when presented with opportunity. The idea of breaking away, of chance, and going against the norm. I believe it is often women who a have a true sense of adventure, perhaps even more so than men. Women like Beryl Markham. Her book, West With the Night, has stayed with me forever. I’m not talking about climbing Everest or hand gliding, but stepping off the edge of your everyday life, taking a risk. Nothing quickens the blood more.

What's obsessing you now and why?
I have to admit getting this book out has been all consuming right now, talking about it. It’s all so new to me, but really wonderful. Reaching out to people, saying please, and someone, like you, Caroline, you’re amazing, who just grabs on and connects in a way that’s astounding. It’s the absolute icing, and I’m having a grand time. But I’m really looking forward to getting back to work on polishing my second novel, and a third that needs more time. All I want is enough of it.

What question should I have asked that I didn't ask?
Why didn’t we meet sooner? Though we’re 3,000 miles away, I am beyond thrilled to know you and so happy that you’ve read my book. The friendship and support of other writers, of people I respect, is truly gratifying.